Every time the school bus drove past the stump she pictured him.
Her mother told her there were witches. They lived in Santa Cruz, just a few towns over. They wanted her mother to join their coven. Her mother whispered this information, as though the witches could hear them in their own house, with the doors locked and the curtains drawn.
When her mother said “No” to the witches, they got angry. Her mother felt invisible hands push her down the stairs in front of their house, and she fell into the carport. The girl pictured the witches driving past their house in the night, slowing down and staring. She listened to each car that passed in the night, wondering which one held the witches.
She was frightened for her mother. She wasn’t frightened for herself until her mother told her that the witches practiced human sacrifice. They would take children right from their beds.
So every time the bus drove past that stump she pictured a boy there. A boy her age: nine years old. He was naked and sprawled on his back. His ribs stuck up, visible through his skin. His arms and legs were spread out, hanging limply. His head was thrown back, exposing his throat. An invisible hand thrust a knife down, through the boy’s breastbone. The bus drove on. No one else looked.